Thursday, 26 February 2009

On George Eliot and The Mill on the Floss

Finished The Mill on the Floss last night.

Very good book...and very of its time. As an edcuated woman, it makes me very frustrated and grateful to read books like these. Frustrated at the way women were thought of at that time (little more than ornamentation and home help), and grateful that things have progressed so much in the last 150 years. We don't have everything men do yet, but compared to then, well...

The Guardian called this novel George Eliot's most autobiographical work, so I did some reading up on her to make the comparisons. Like Maggie, Eliot (or Mary Ann Evans, to use her real name) never felt part of the society in which she grew up. She felt compelled to go abroad to escape the stultifying atmosphere of her small home town, and was miserable upon her return. And also like Maggie, Eliot was shunned by her family (in particular, her beloved older brother) when she fell in love with and spent the majority of the rest of her life with a married man. (This man couldn't divorce his wife, who had committed adultery, due to the antiquated divorce laws of the time).

Knowing this about Eliot makes the book all the more poignant. I have now read two books detailing the close (yet contrasting) relationships between a brother and a sister. Paul and Florence (in Dombey and Son) were as close as siblings could be, and supported each other in their mutual loneliness. Tom and Maggie (in The Mill on the Floss) are close, but only as close as Tom will allow them to be. Maggie is willling to give up everything for Tom, but he cannot do the same for his devoted sister. I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't read the book yet, but Tom comes round in the very end.

After all this heavy and sorrowful Victorian lit...a diversion!

Next novel: A Fairytale of New York by JP Donleavy.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Already Read Already

I've decided to publish a list of the books on the Guardian list which I've already read...

Including the ones I've finished since starting this blog...the total equals 103.

Interesting selection...after looking over it, I realised just how many of those I read when I was in my teens and early university years. And how few I've read since.

The main purpose of this blog is to remedy that.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Reflections on Dombey and Son

Have finally finished Dombey and Son.

This wasn't one of my favourite Dickens...I felt as if I was plowing through it (more so for the second half of the book) rather than enjoying it.

To me, it tied up loose ends and unresolved issues rather too neatly. This is not like Bleak House, which, despite its myriad plotlines and countless characters, brought everything together with a proper climax...and the aforementioned plotlines and characters wove together in a much more realistic way.

Having said that, there were certain aspects of the book I did find compelling, most of all the relationship between Florence and Paul Dombey, Junior. I always thought of my brother and I as a team; a brother and sister who truly understood one another. This seemed the case for Florence and Paul as well. I love the theme of Paul's insistence that the waves were speaking to him...and the allusion to his death in the chapter entitled simply, "What the waves were always saying". This chapter was written beautifully. up? A temporary diversion from Dickens...The Mill On The Floss by George Eliot.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Dombey and Son, part one

About halfway through Dombey and Son...

An absorbing read. Profoundly sad. Makes me realise how grateful I am that my parents love my brother and I equally.

More on this when I finish the book.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Mister Charles Dickens

Found this great photo of Dickens on the web...such a pose, but I like to think that it's the great man hard at work.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Novel One Completed

Well, I just finished reading the first novel on my list...Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

Impressive in its brevity - not very Dickensian! I'm used to reading Bleak House and Nicholas Nickleby, where you just have to jump in feet first and wallow luxuriously in the labrynthine plots and character descriptions and relationships.

Hard Times is a much more pared down effort for Dickens, but I found it all the more moving and eloquent for being so. Dickens' love of language and wit still shine through, but the relative shortness of the novel allows his passions and strong beliefs to come to the fore.

Needless to say, I enjoyed it. I would love to see an adaptation by the Beeb of this, but I fear it just wouldn't be meaty enough for them (not enough characters or plotlines) - although the issues of 150 years ago (workers' and marital rights, "proper" education) discussed in the book are still relevant today.

Gonna find a good pic of Dickens himself to post...

Next novel: Back to the weighty Dickens....Dombey and Son.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Book One - Hansen's Odyssey Begins

Hello all.

I realise that I am starting a rather daunting task...but a very enjoyable one to me nonetheless.

The Guardian supplements I mentioned broke down the 1000 novels into 7 genres, which are:
  • Love
  • Crime
  • State of the Nation
  • Comedy
  • Family & Self
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • War and Travel

I dutifully went through each list, circling the novels from each genre that I had already read. I found the genres I had read most of were Love and State of the Nation. I really have to catch up on my Crime.

SO...where to begin? Genre? Author? Familiarity? I decided to go with a bit of both.

I ventured out to the Redbridge Central Library today to start my literary journey. This library is the best in my area, and I suspect (like Lisa Simpson) I will be on a first name basis with the staff as I troop back and forth to borrow my copious amounts of reading material.

I checked out Dombey & Son and Hard Times by Charles Dickens and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. Both Dickens novels are from the State of the Nation genre, and The Mill on the Floss is from the Love genre. I chose the Dickens because, as a huge Dickens fan, I feel it is a personal crime that I have not completed my consumption of his works. The Mill on the Floss I chose because the Guardian calls it Eliot's most autobiographical work of fiction, and I am intrigued.

So...I start with Hard Times, a Dickens which I have been meaning to read for a long time.

I will keep posts on what I think of the books I read, good or bad. I will publish a complete list of the novels I will be's obviously not quite 1000, but it will be one heckuva lot.

And of course, I will be customising my blog with photos, quotes, links, the lot. I'm new to this blogging thing, so be patient! And keep checking in on me! I appreciate reviews if you've read any of the books, comments, etc. All is welcome.

Wish me luck!